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Judge back on bench; defeated challenger back as prosecutor

By JOHN WHARTON

Staff writer

The two candidates were not far apart, numerically or geographically, when the Election Day vote counting and the campaign parties ended, as St. Mary’s Circuit Judge David W. Densford sat at the bar in a California restaurant and Joseph M. Stanalonis stood in the reception room of a nearby VFW post.

Both the victorious appointee and the defeated challenger said they were ready to get back to their jobs in the county courthouse in Leonardtown. On Wednesday, Densford was on the bench in his courtroom, and Stanalonis’ coworkers at the state’s attorney’s office upstairs indicated he would be back at his desk the next day as an assistant prosecutor.

On Tuesday and during early voting, St. Mary’s voters gave Densford 21,388 votes compared to 19,859 for Stanalonis, according to unofficial results from the county elections office, amounting to a margin of 1,529 votes for Densford and close to a 52 percent majority.

Elections office staff began counting 2,119 already-received absentee ballots on Thursday morning, and they said that they would work this weekend to go through 1,174 provisional ballots that were cast on Election Day, many of which may have been cast by out-of-county residents who cannot vote in the local races. A total of 3,021 absentee ballots were issued before the election, including 246 U.S. and overseas military ballots, and the last ones back that were postmarked by Tuesday will be counted at the end of next week. Voter turnout in St. Mary’s was nearly 70 percent before the absentee and provisional ballots were cast.

Stanalonis, 41, predicted late Tuesday night at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post, as many supporters including present and former coworkers lingered, that the number of votes he could hope to receive from the initial group of 2,119 absentee ballots would not change the outcome of the race.

“That’s not going to be enough,” Stanalonis said.

Densford, 60, said up the road at Lenny’s restaurant, “There are people who crunch numbers, and I’m not one of them.”

Instead, the judge who was nominated and appointed last winter to the circuit court by Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) focused on getting back to the job that he will hold until he reaches mandatory retirement at age 70, and most likely could continue to perform part time after that, in an active-retired status. “It’s been a great nine months, and I’ve enjoyed every second of it,” Densford said. “I’m pleased and humbled that the people have decided that I can continue as their circuit court judge.”

The year-long campaign included sharp comments at public forums and in printed fliers about each candidates’ conduct and work record, but Densford was adamant on Tuesday night that the campaign and its result were not tantamount to a referendum on whether Maryland should continue requiring its appointed circuit judges to face direct challengers in an election. “It was a referendum on different views of becoming a judge,” Densford said. “One followed the process and got the appointment, [before seeking] the election. The other did not.”

Densford added that Stanalonis “ran a hard race. He worked very hard, and he had strong support.”

Stanalonis said Tuesday night that as of the next day, “I’m going to start by cleaning up signs, and I’ve got a lot of people in the community that I need to personally thank.” After that’s done, he said, “‘I’m going to get back to my regular job of working for the people of St. Mary’s County, as a prosecutor.”

He was asked how he would approach that job’s inevitable appearances in Densford’s courtroom. “I will have to figure that out,” Stanalonis said.

Densford foresaw no problems. “He is a professional,” the judge said, “and is treated like one.”

jwharton@somdnews.com